Amtrak passengers travelling to Chicago know well the chokepoint that exists in Northwest Indiana where Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific and CSX trains jockey for space on a congested double-track mainline owned by NS.
But the congestion may be easing as a result of a $71.4 million project that will upgrade the route at eight locations between Porter, Ind., and the Illinois border.
The project will include signal and track upgrades, including new passing sidings and high speed crossovers at several interlockings.
The route sees 14 Amtrak trains and more than 90 freight trains per day, often resulting in heavy delays. A handful of CP and CSX trains use the line via trackage rights.
An NS official president said the improvements will “help our dispatchers to move trains better through this entire area, which will help all of us in the long run.”
The project, which was originally funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act in 2010, has a target completion date of 2016.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence officially launched the project from the platform of the Hammond-Whiting Amtrak station and was joined by officials from NS, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration
“By reducing congestion where Lake Michigan funnels rail traffic east of Chicago and improving the flow of goods and people by rail the Indiana Gateway has the potential to grow Northwest Indiana’s reputation as a manufacturing and distribution center and positively impact economic development in the [Calumet] Region,” Pence said in a news release.
The Indiana Gateway project will improve seven locations on NS’s Chicago Line and one on the Amtrak Michigan Line. NS will install universal crossovers at five locations and construct a third mainline track at three locations.
“Norfolk Southern prides itself on a tradition of partnering with other transportation providers, including Amtrak,” said Jeff Harris, NS assistant vice president for operation planning. “The Indiana Gateway project provides important infrastructure improvements which, when completed, should allow for more efficient movement of passenger and freight trains through this vital rail corridor.”
Amtrak will build a new passing siding near the Porter interlocking, where NS, Amtrak and CSX lines intersect.
“Fourteen daily Amtrak trains every day share these tracks with dozens of Norfolk Southern freight trains, all with time-sensitive customers,” said Michael Franke, chief of Amtrak state government contracts. “The Indiana Gateway Project will improve some of the busiest tracks in the country, adding capacity and increasing the fluidity of all trains.”